Express News Service
The statement from China’s Ministry of Defence that both armies have started to disengage from the North and South banks of Pangong Tso post the consensus reached in the ninth round of Corps Commanders talks is a welcome step, which needs to be verified and confirmed on the ground. Ideally, both sides should not only disengage but move back to their respective positions before the confrontation. After the 1962 War, both India and China worked towards normalisation of relations, a process which took about three decades and more.
To their credit, both sides managed the disputed and undemarcated borders without resorting to armed force till the ‘Galway Incident’, through various diplomatic and military mechanisms. It is in the interest of both the countries to manage their borders peacefully permitting and encouraging economic growth and well being unhindered by the spectre of war. China started its economic reforms in 1979 and today is the second-largest economy in the world poised to overtake the USA as the number one economy in this decade itself and India is not far behind as the fifth largest economy in the world, poised to grow at a healthy growth rate of seven to eight per cent.
India’s strategic doyen, K Subramaniam had stated India’s national strategy as keeping the borders secure against aggression thus permitting unhindered economic growth. To the credit of the Indian Army, it had foreseen the aggressive Chinese actions on the borders as early as almost eighteen years back and had started preparing for it meaningfully. Indian Army’s resolute action as Doklam is a case in point and immediately after its resolution, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, then the Chief of Army Staff had stated in a meeting of senior military commanders that he expected a ‘Doklam’ like action in Ladakh in the next couple of years.
China sees itself as the number one superpower in a couple of decades, however, if twenty-first century has to be the Asian Century, both India and China can ill afford a war between the world’s two largest armies; at best they can cooperate and collaborate to grow economically or at worst compete with each other economically while shunning war as an option. Both India and China as nations need to respect each other’s sovereignty and work assiduously towards building mutual trust and respect. However, in the realm of realpolitik, the weak get rolled over and the best way to avoid war is to be militarily strong.
The development of the border infrastructure should continue apace while the Indian Armed Forces reorient themselves more towards the Northern and North Eastern borders. In the present confrontation, both sides need to disengage and go back to their respective pre-confrontation locations.
Maj Gen (ReTD) d a chaturvedi Former division commander &head of the Territorial Army